by Melinda Holley
Written for PetFly by John Vorhaus
internal thought in * *
~~~~~ ACT I ~~~~~
America. The land of opportunity. Henri Tusseau wished he had more time to explore that possibility. Most of all, he was intrigued by the innocence and naivety of its citizens. Bad things never happened within her borders. At least not as bad as those that happened elsewhere.
Henri’s dark eyes glanced in the store window next to him. He momentarily stopped as if studying the display of toys, then he determinedly walked away. The brief stop had confirmed his instincts.
They were coming for him…and coming quickly. They wanted the envelope in his pocket.
Henri quickly turned the corner and bumped into a grocery cart pushed by a raggedly dressed homeless woman. The woman screeched angrily as the cart tipped over.
"My things! Look what you’ve done!"
"I’m so sorry," Henri apologized as he righted the cart. "It’s entirely my fault." His softly accented voice betrayed no hint of his increasing panic as he replaced the various pieces of dirty clothing and broken household goods into the cart.
The dark-skinned woman sadly shook her head when Henri nodded once more in silent apology. Pushing the cart, she passed the three men who were intent on following the young man.
Henri trotted down the street. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the three running after him. Stumbling slightly, he broke into a run, turning the corner…and running into the one man he never wanted to see again.
Before Henri could call out, he was pushed into the back of a dark late-model sedan. Seconds later, the car drove away.
Henri tried to calm himself as the man in the front passenger seat turned to look at him. As best he could, he tried to ignore the large men sitting on either side of him.
"You are a hard man to find."
Henri felt a strange calm come over him. "That is because no one wants you to find them, Jean Christophe. You bring nothing but pain and misery."
Christophe’s dark eyes snapped in anger. "Where is it?"
Henri casually shrugged. "I have nothing. You may search me if you wish."
Christophe coldly chuckled. "You know I will do more than that. You *will* tell me what I want to know."
Henri silently consigned his soul to God then lunged forward. He grabbed Christophe’s jacket, pulling the man half over the seat towards him. Wrapping his hands around his captor’s throat, he began squeezing.
So intent was Henri on trying to strangle Christophe, he barely felt the knife blade slide between his ribs. But a solid punch to his kidneys broke his concentration. As pain from his wound began to register, Henri’s hands loosened around Christophe’s throat. He clutched at the other man’s jacket as he began to collapse. He felt the green pin on Christophe’s jacket come loose in his hand and clutched it tightly.
The crowd stood watching as crowds will do whenever they spot the flashing lights of police cars and EMT’s. They talked quietly among themselves, speculating about what had happened, who it had happened to, and why it had happened. Before the day was over, most would be convinced they knew the whole story.
Detective Jim Ellison heard most of the speculation as he walked past the spectators towards the tall dark-skinned man who was questioning a small dark-haired woman. Behind him, his partner, Blair Sandburg, trotted to keep up.
"Jim!" Captain Simon Banks motioned him to come closer. "This is Elizabeth Chin. She was driving the car." He glanced at the woman. "Please tell Detective Ellison what happened."
The woman wearily shrugged. "He just…lurched off the sidewalk. I thought he was drunk when he hit the front side of my car. I slammed on my brakes and got out. That’s when I saw all the blood." She wrapped her arms around her body as she shivered. "I called 911 on my cell, but…"
Jim glanced at the ambulance.
"He died. Multiple stab wounds," Simon quietly explained. "But he said something before he died, didn’t he, Ms. Chin?"
The shivering woman nodded. "Something about someone called Benet. It sounded like a warning, but I can’t be sure."
Simon nodded at a nearby EMT. "They’ll take you to the hospital, Ms. Chin. Is there someone we can call?"
"My brother." Elizabeth nodded. "I can call him on my cell."
Simon nodded. "Thank you for your help. If we have any more questions, we’ll be in touch."
"I don’t get it, Simon." Jim frowned. "Why are we involved? Shouldn’t this land in Homicide’s lap? And who’s Benet?"
"Dr. Genevieve Benet from St. Germaine," Blair answered.
Jim looked at his partner then frowned at the tone of admiration in Blair’s voice. "The peace activist you’ve been talking about for the last couple of days?"
Simon nodded. "Probably has something to do with the Amnesty International conference this week. Dignitaries are coming from all over the world for the lighting of the torch."
Jim glanced up at the cloudy sky. *Why Cascade?* He shook his head. "So why is Benet coming? Is she a delegate or something?"
"She’s a vocal advocate for Amnesty International," Blair eagerly explained. "She’ll take on anybody, but she’s mostly involved working against the repressive government of her home country of St. Germaine."
Jim sighed. "Do we have anything on the victim, sir?"
"No identification." Simon shook his head. "I’ll have his prints run. In the meantime, check with the airlines and Immigration. We need to find out when Benet’s arriving so we can arrange security for her. The last thing I want is for this conference to turn into an international incident." He turned towards his car.
"Hang on." Jim’s blue eyes narrowed as he walked towards the curb. "This looks interesting." He carefully picked up a round green lapel pin and slid it into an evidence bag. "There’s blood on it." He glanced at the coroner’s van. "Maybe our victim’s."
Simon grunted. Then he motioned towards the uniformed officers. "Let’s get this crowd cleared out!" he ordered.
One of the spectators moving away was a dark-skinned woman pushing a grocery cart of dirty clothing and broken household goods. She wore a very sad expression.
Gustavo Alcante really loved America. He especially loved the way her people abandoned places. If they didn’t like a place or it had outlived its usefulness, they simply moved away and built elsewhere. They abandoned buildings that in less affluent countries would be used over and over, no matter how decrepit the buildings became.
But America’s abandoned buildings made perfect meeting places for those who didn’t want to conduct their business in public. This particular abandoned warehouse sat on the banks of the Kodiak River just outside the Cascade city limits. Similar abandoned warehouses lined the opposite side of the river.
Gustavo’s quick dark eyes studied the man who got out of the car parked next to his 4×4. Tom Janover was a dangerous man, and Gustavo hadn’t gotten as old as he was by being negligent. "Señor," he greeted. Opening the back of the 4×4, he pulled out a large blanket-covered case and set it on the ground.
Janover angrily frowned when Gustavo opened the case. "What the hell is this? I told you I need surface-to-surface. These are surface-to-air!"
"Señor, please," Gustavo smiled. "Why would I sell shoes to a fish? I have what you need. They have been modified. Their sensors will lock onto virtually any reasonable heat source. Even on the ground. *And* against strong background clutter. So surface-to-air becomes surface-to-surface."
Across the river, two Federal agents sat in their car in an abandoned warehouse listening to the conversation. One turned to the other. "Okay, you win. He probably *could* sell ice to an Eskimo."
Janover took one of the launchers and hoisted it to his shoulder. "Nice. Very nice. I like the flexibility this will give me." He began to scan the area through the launcher’s site. "How did you get your hands on them?"
"Señor…please," Gustavo smiled. "As they say in America…does Gimble tell Macy?" When Janover glanced at him, he shrugged. "A soldier goes AWOL with a truckload of experimental weapons. A deal is made. Money is exchanged."
Janover smiled when he spotted the car visible in the abandoned warehouse across the river. "Nice story, Gustavo. Wish I believed it." He squeezed the trigger.
Gustavo backed away as the missile flew across the water and exploded inside the warehouse. He quickly got into his 4×4 and started the engine thankful the explosion covered the noise.
Janover smirked and turned around. "Now, Gusta…" His eyes widened when he saw his car being pushed over the riverbank by Gustavo’s 4×4. Drawing his gun, he aimed at the 4×4.
Gustavo spun the tires, kicking dirt towards Janover. Cutting the wheels hard, he put the 4×4 into a tight circle, then drove away. Glancing at the back window, he breathed hard. "Madre de Dios."
Simon wearily nodded as Jim and Blair entered his office. The day was still young, but he’d already had two calls from the Mayor and one from the Police Commissioner. Neither was happy and both were anxious that the Amnesty International Conference proceed without any disruptions. The responsibility for seeing that nothing went wrong had just landed in his lap. "What do you have?" He gratefully nodded when Blair gently closed the office door.
"The Medical Examiner put a rush on it for us, sir," Jim reported. "The cause of death is a knife wound. Due to the damage, Dan said it was a miracle the guy made it to the street then lived long enough to say anything."
"Has there been any word on Benet?" Blair asked.
Simon glanced at his watch. "Her plane was due about an hour ago. She was to be taken directly to her hotel."
"You know that Feliz Lemec will be at this conference," Blair pointed out.
"He’s the president of St. Germaine, Sandburg," Simon grunted.
"President by way of force," Blair irritably replied. "He stole the last election and rules by terror. He and Benet couldn’t be any further apart in their beliefs."
Simon and Jim eyed the younger man then exchanged a quick look.
"Sandburg, I don’t suppose you’d know about any demonstrations that might be planned during this conference, would you?" Simon politely asked.
Blair hesitated then squared his shoulders. "Peaceful dissent isn’t against the law." He hesitated then added, "Sir."
"As long as it’s peaceful, no," Simon agreed.
"Chief, if you know something…" Jim began.
"Lemec is a killer!" Blair burst out. His hands began waving in front of him as he paced. "He killed his way to power! He uses terror and torture to stay there! And the man has the unmitigated gall to show up at an Amnesty International Conference as though his hands weren’t covered with the blood of his own people!" He swung around to glare at both older men. "Of course, there’s going to…" His blue eyes widened. "Oh my God…that’s her."
Just then the door to Simon’s office was flung open. "Which is you is Captain Banks?"
All three men stared at the angry dark-skinned woman. Her dark eyes angrily flashed as she waited for an answer.
"I’m Captain Banks," Simon admitted.
"Well, Captain Banks, I’m Genevieve Benet." The woman closed the door and angrily walked to stand in front of his desk. "I would expect this treatment in St. Germaine, Captain. Not in America."
"Dr. Benet, I’m Blair Sandburg." Blair stepped forward, a look of admiration on his face. "It’s an honor."
"And this is Detective Ellison," Simon introduced. "I apologize if you’ve been offended in any way, but what sort of treatment are you talking about?"
"The armed escort at the airport who strenuously suggested I go immediately to my hotel." Genevieve made a slashing motion with her left hand. "The ‘escort’ was not requested, and it is *not* appreciated. I will not be silenced."
"No one in intending to silence you, Dr. Benet," Simon quickly answered. "But we feel there’s been a threat to your life."
"Another one?" Genevieve looked amused. "Who threatened me this time?"
"A man was killed today," Jim explained. "Just before he died, he muttered a warning to you."
"Who was the man?" Genevieve curiously asked, looking at the detective.
"He hasn’t been identified yet," Jim admitted.
"With all due respect, Captain, it sounds as though you don’t know much." Genevieve turned back to Simon.
"Perhaps you can help us." Jim opened the file and placed photographs on Simon’s desk. "Would you look at these? Do you recognize this man?"
Genevieve looked down at a police photo of the dead man. She frowned as she studied it closely. Slowly she shook her head. "No. I’ve never seen him before," she sadly answered.
"You sound sad about it," Jim remarked. He ignored Blair’s hiss of protest.
"I’m sorry when anyone dies of violence, Detective," Genevieve calmly answered. "You said this man was killed. I don’t imagine that means he died peacefully in his sleep."
"How about this?" Jim showed her the picture of the lapel pin.
Genevieve shook her head then looked at Simon. "I receive death threats all the time, Captain Banks. I cannot allow these threats to interfere with my work. And I will not allow your security forces to dictate my actions."
"I understand, Dr. Benet." Simon nodded. "We can’t force you to take our help. But I strongly suggest you do so. We can arrange for you to be protected by plain-clothes officers. Nothing obvious or intrusive."
"Thank you for your concern, Captain," Genevieve smiled. "But I must refuse."
"Uh, excuse me, Dr. Benet." Blair moved forward as Genevieve turned to leave. "I was wondering what you’d be doing with your free time?"
"I beg your pardon?" Genevieve asked in confusion. "Mr. Sandburg, wasn’t it?"
"Yes, ma’am." Blair smiled. "Uh…since the conference isn’t for a couple of days…I mean…" He mentally shook his head to clear his thoughts. "Staying in a hotel room in a strange city can’t be much fun, can it?"
"You must not have many crimes to solve if you’re offering yourself as a tour guide." Genevieve half-smiled.
"I’m not a police officer," Blair explained. "Actually, I’m an anthropologist."
"Really?" Genevieve questioned.
"Really," Simon grunted.
Jim nodded, although he scowled at this partner.
"You should have been a diplomat," Genevieve chuckled. She looked at Simon and Jim for several seconds, then nodded. "Very well, Mr. Sandburg."
"Blair," the young man quickly corrected. "I’d be honored if you’d call me Blair."
"Blair." Genevieve nodded. "I accept your offer." She looked at Simon. "I appreciate your position, Captain Banks. But I must insist there be no guards at my door. People come to me for help…to give me information. I must insist on unrestricted access."
"There are many delegates to the conference also staying at your hotel, Dr. Benet," Simon pointed out. "Security is mandated and is already in place." He held up a hand to forestall any arguments. "However, no one will have guards on their doors unless requested." He shrugged. "I’m sorry. It’s the best I can do."
After a moment, Genevieve nodded. "I understand. And I do appreciate your sensitivity to my position." She turned to Blair. "I have one request, Blair, for dinner. I heard a great deal of advertising on the radio as I came from the airport."
"Sure." Blair happily grinned. "Anything you say." He ushered her towards the door. "After you." He glanced back and the two officers and waved his hand. "Where would you like to go?"
"It’s called Wonder Burger," Genevieve replied as the door closed behind them.
If Jim hadn’t been irritated at his partner, he would have laughed at the expression on Blair’s face.
Simon sighed as he sat down behind his desk. "Trust Sandburg to get involved."
"At least he won’t be involved with the demonstrations," Jim growled. He looked at Simon. "She was lying, sir. At least about the pin." His forefinger jabbed at the photograph on Simon’s desk. "This insignia appears to be military. If it’s an insignia associated with St. Germaine…"
"She would have recognized it." Simon thoughtfully nodded. "A man dies giving a warning about a threat to a political activist from St. Germaine. A lapel pin with this insignia is found in his hand."
"Her heartbeat and respiration was elevated when she denied recognizing either the man or the pin," Jim admitted. "But she was upset when she arrived."
Simon nodded. "Get on it. And make it quick. The clock’s ticking on this one."
Jim briefly nodded then left. As he walked towards his desk, he hoped it wouldn’t take long to identify the pin’s insignia. *This sort of stuff is right up Sandburg’s alley. But no…he’s got to be off hero-worshipping somebody who’s just going to cause trouble.*~~~~~ ACT II ~~~~~Blair and Genevieve were enjoying a slow walk after eating at Wonder Burger. The woman had laughed when she realized it was a fast food restaurant. Nevertheless, she gamely ordered a burger then declared it one of the best she’d ever had. Fortunately, the one they’d chosen was only a few blocks from her hotel.
"I look at a city and see it as a mosaic for humanity," Blair was explaining. His hands spread wide to encompass the traffic around them. "I mean…look! You have all these different ethnicities, cultural rites, rituals, ghettos, factories…rich and poor and middle-class!" He turned in a complete circle. "It’s like a bunch of little villages all living side-by-side!"
Genevieve smiled. "You sound very passionate about your work. Why are you connected with the police?"
"Hmm? Oh…I’m a consultant," Blair explained. "I’m working on my doctorate."
Genevieve nodded in approval. "On what subject?"
"I’m studying the social structure of an urban police department. It’s sort of dry and academic," Blair casually explained. "It certainly doesn’t compare to what you’ve done." He looked at her with genuine admiration. "Bosnia. Yemen. East Timor. You don’t just observe. You jump right in to make things better." He saw the twinkling in her dark eyes. "Oh, man…I’m sorry. I sound so…" He grimaced. "You probably think I’m going to ask for your autograph or something."
"I hope not." Genevieve laughed. "I have horrible handwriting." She eyed the younger man with interest. "Do you believe I should have accepted Captain Banks’ offer of protection?"
"Simon…I mean, Captain Banks is a good man," Blair explained. "And Detective Ellison…he’s my partner. And best friend. If they believe the threat is credible, then it is. They’re good at their job. Even more importantly, they’re good men. I trust them." He hesitated. "But I realize you can’t do your job if you have the police around."
"But do *they* understand?" Genevieve questioned.
"They’ll try," Blair admitted. He hesitated near an ice cream vendor. "Would you like something?"
Genevieve nodded, looking at the limited menu. "I think…strawberry."
From across the street, Jean Christophe spoke quietly into a cell phone. "The police met her at the airport and took her to the hotel. From there, she went to police headquarters. Now there’s someone with her."
"Where are you?" Feliz Lemec calmly looked out the window at the nearby bay.
"On the corner of Maddox and Landon. Just a few blocks from the hotel," Christopher answered. "They’re eating ice cream."
Lemec chuckled. "How charming." He turned away from the window. "Stay with them. She can afford to relax and eat ice cream. We cannot."
"As you command, mon Presidente." Christophe replaced the cell phone in his pocket and glanced across the street.
Lemec turned to the other man in the room. "It seems she’s keeping herself occupied. That buys us some time."
Tom Janover frowned. "Why don’t you just have her killed now?"
Lemec mentally swore. "Because that would just eliminate her. And while that would bring me a great deal of personal pleasure, it will not elevate me in the eyes of the world. When that missile explodes, the world will see it as an act of terrorism. Terrorism perpetrated within the borders of the United States. I will seize that moment…and use Genevieve Benet’s dead body to demand strong sanctions against terrorism…to justify eliminating terrorists within my own country."
Janover forced his expression to remain neutral. *Terrorists my ass. You’re an egotistical maniac. But as long as you’re paying me good money, who cares?*
Lemec glared at the mercenary. "But for that to happen, I need that missile."
"We have a contract, Mr. President," Janover assured him. "You’ll have your missile. And your incident."
Jim stared at the computer screen, then at the picture on his desk. With a resigned sigh, he picked up the photo and walked to Simon’s office. He knocked, then opened the door. Closing it behind him, he held up the photo. "I’ve identified it." He laid the photo on Simon’s desk. "It’s the coat of arms of the Presidential guard of St. Germaine. In order to get it, you have to be a member of Lemec’s inner circle." He folded his arms across his chest. "I wonder who’s missing a lapel pin?"
"Lemec is the head of a foreign government. *And* a guest of *our* government," Simon growled. "I can’t have you hassling him about a damn pin!"
"I’m not going to hassle him, sir. Just talk with him about a piece of evidence in a murder case," Jim carefully replied.
Simon sighed. "What about Benet? You were right that she must have recognized it."
Jim nodded. "My next step after Lemec."
Simon looked at his watch. "Have you heard from Sandburg? They’ve been gone for hours."
"I don’t think Sandburg’s the most objective person to discuss Benet," Jim admitted. "I don’t think he can get past his hero worship at the moment. I’d rather concentrate on Lemec."
Simon grunted. "Talk with him. Do *not* interrogate him. Is that understood?"
"I’ll use my best diplomatic skills, sir," Jim promised.
"That’s what I’m afraid of," Simon snapped. He looked at his closed door when he heard a knock. "Come in!"
A tall man with dark hair and hazel eyes entered. His well-cut suit hid the shoulder harness and gun that both Simon and Jim immediately knew the man carried. Exchanging quick looks, the two Cascade officers had the same idea.
"Captain Banks, I’m Wade Caldy. Federal Weapons Task Force." He closed the door and glanced at Jim. "I need to speak with you. Privately." He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out his identification.
Simon studied it, then nodded. "This is Detective Ellison. Sit down."
Caldy eyed Jim who calmly returned the stare. "Thanks for the offer, but I don’t have time for pleasantries. Not to make a bad joke, but I’m under the gun here." He pulled a 5" x 7" photograph from his jacket pocket and laid it on Simon’s desk. "This is Tom Janover. He’s a mercenary who also deals in weapons. My agents set up a sting, but it went wrong."
"You think he’s in Cascade?" Simon frowned.
"He was, and I’m hoping he still is." Caldy produced another photograph. "I’m also looking for this man."
Simon glanced at Jim. "Gustavo Alcante?"
"You know him?" Caldy demanded.
"He helped us with a kidnapping last year," Jim briefly explained. "In the confusion immediately afterwards, he managed to slip away."
"He’s a slippery one," Caldy angrily admitted. "He was my middle-man in this deal. I gave him two missiles to bait Janover. But something went wrong at the buy, and he used one of them to kill two of my agents."
Jim shook his head. "Gustavo would con you out of your gold teeth, but he’s no killer."
"My men were experienced!" Caldy snapped. "And I don’t make those kind of mistakes!"
"You said there were two missiles," Simon interrupted. "Where’s the other one?"
"Either Janover or Alcante has it," Caldy admitted. "One way or another, I’m going to get it back. And they’re going down for murder."
"What makes you think Gustavo pulled the trigger?" Jim asked. "Janover’s the merc."
"My agents are dead. One missile’s missing along with both Janover and Alcante." Caldy grunted. "As far as I’m concerned, they’re both guilty."
Blair sleepily walked out from his bedroom. He ran his right hand through his sleep-tousled hair while rubbing his stomach with his left hand.
Jim smiled at his partner in the early morning light. "What time did you get in?" He poured coffee into a mug and set it on the kitchen island.
"I guess ’bout two." Blair yawned, then sipped the hot liquid.
"I wouldn’t have imagined Dr. Benet to be such a party animal." Jim smirked.
Blair ignored the smirk. "We walked around for a while and talked a lot."
"Did you get her to accept our protection?" Jim hopefully asked.
"Ummm…I only briefly mentioned it," Blair answered.
"What?!" Jim demanded. He watched as Blair sat at the table, nursing the mug of coffee.
"First of all, she’s not going to change her mind about it," Blair reasoned. "I *did* tell her that you and Simon could be trusted." He shrugged. "But my interest in her isn’t about that."
Jim groaned and joined his partner at the table. "Sandburg, now is *not* the time…"
"It’s not that!" Blair interrupted, shaking his head. "I don’t think you appreciate who she is and the impact she’s had…the good she’s done."
"So, I guess that means you trust her," Jim mused.
"Yes, I trust her!" Blair snapped. "Didn’t you hear what I said? She’s one of the good guys, man."
"I heard." Jim nodded. "But I don’t think she’s telling the truth. When I showed her the picture of our victim, her heartbeat and respiration were elevated. And, as far as the pin’s concerned, turns out it’s the insignia of President Lemec’s inside circle." He sipped his coffee. "Benet must have recognized it."
"But why would she lie?" Blair demanded.
Jim shrugged. "Maybe she’s trying to protect someone. Maybe she’s frightened."
Blair firmly shook his head. "She’s not scared. I don’t buy that one."
"Then you tell me, Darwin." Jim leaned forward. "Why did she lie?"
Blair was silent for a few moments. "You know, we had a similar conversation about Micki Kamarev. It’s not easy for some people to trust the police."
Jim tried to remain calm. "If people want to play games like that in their own country…"
"Games? *GAMES?*" Blair angrily looked at Jim. "Games aren’t death squads dragging people from their homes in the dead of night, man! Games aren’t people just disappearing! Games aren’t people being thrown into concentration camps for disagreeing with the government!" He got to his feet and paced around the small kitchen. "Genevieve Benet isn’t into playing games! These are *real* people involved, man!"
"I know…" Jim began.
"The people Genevieve Benet fights for see the government as their oppressors," Blair continued. "The only time they see the police is when they haul them away or beat them senseless. How are they supposed to learn to trust?"
"Hey!" Jim sharply interrupted. "I know, Sandburg, I know. I’ve seen it first-hand. But that’s there…not here."
Blair sighed. "It takes more than a change of scenery to build trust."
The two men stared at each other for several seconds.
"I guess this is something we’ll have to agree to disagree about, huh?" Blair finally spoke.
"Yeah, guess so." Jim briefly smiled. "You don’t think there’s any way Benet will accept protection?"
Blair shook his head. "Her work…her causes are more important than her life."
Jim sighed. "Just remember, Chief, if you’re with her, you could be caught in the line of fire. Are those causes more important that *your* life?"
Blair uncomfortably shrugged. "It’s no more than what you do everyday."
*That’s where you’re wrong, Junior.* Jim slowly got up from the table and rinsed out his mug. "Try to keep an eye out for anyone who seems to be following the two of you," he ordered. "Keep your cell phone charged and call me if anything happens." He looked over his shoulder at the younger man. "For once, be paranoid. Got it?"
Blair nodded. "Thanks, Jim." When the older man raised his eyebrows, he smiled. "For not pushing more. I think you’re wrong about her."
Jim uncomfortably shrugged. "I’ve been wrong before. All I know is I’ve got a body at the morgue, and the last thing he said was her name."
Blair glanced at the clock. "I gotta get going, man." He drained the last of his coffee and handed the empty mug to Jim. "We’re going to check out the site for the torch lighting then I’m taking her sightseeing." As he spoke, he was quickly walking towards the bathroom.
"Leave me an itinerary!" Jim shouted.
"You’re kidding, right?" Blair stopped at the bathroom door, looking over his shoulder.
Jim silently stared at him.
"I’ll keep in touch, okay?" Blair promised. "I really don’t have anything special planned." He grinned. "I’m sorta playing this by ear."
Jim bit back his reply and curtly nodded. He finished washing the breakfast dishes, listening as Blair muttered to himself in the shower. He knew Blair realized he could be heard and was probably tailoring his remarks just in case he *was* being overheard.
Silently shaking his head, Jim rapped on the door. "I’m leaving, Sandburg! Just be careful, okay?"
"We will!" Blair shouted back.
Muttering his own comments under his breath, Jim grabbed his gun and jacket. Making sure the front door was securely locked, he chose to use the steps rather than wait for the elevator.
Jim suddenly stopped on the landing, his nose crinkling. *What is that smell?* He instinctively looked around, but found nothing lying on the floor or steps. *Somebody was here long enough to leave this odor. Why just stand here?*
Committing the odor to memory, Jim slowly walked down the stairs, paying close attention to any possible footprints or other evidence of someone lurking on the steps. The only thing he’d found by the time he reached the street, was that the odor, whatever it was, had come in through the door and up the steps to the third story landing.
Jim scowled. The day wasn’t starting out well.
Blair and Genevieve stood staring at the torch lighting site. It was a beautiful setting with the bay behind the podium and trees to either side of the large open space prepared for the spectators.
Blair smiled to himself. Even he could see this would be a security nightmare. He was glad he wasn’t around to hear Simon bellowing about it or see Jim grinding his back teeth over it.
"It’s going to be impressive when lit," Blair finally commented.
"It should be," Genevieve evenly replied. "It was paid for with a lot of pain. As to how much actual good it will do…" She shrugged.
"How long have you worked for human rights?" Blair asked.
Genevieve smiled. "I thought you knew everything about me."
It was Blair’s turn to shrug. "Only what I’ve read and heard. And you can’t believe everything you read and hear, right?"
Genevieve chuckled. "No, you can’t," she admitted. "But probably most of what you’ve read is true. My father was a university professor and activist. He believed in the dignity of all people and their right to be free. And that’s why he was killed. I inherited his idealism and stubbornness."
"And your mother?" Blair gently asked.
"She believed in her husband and home." Genevieve frowned. "She was no activist. But it didn’t help her when they came for my father. They took her and killed her as well. If I had been there, I would have been taken as well. But I was in my final year at Columbia University. It would have been too risky if I had suffered a fatal accident at the same time."
Blair shook his head at her cool, even tone of voice.
"And you, Blair? You seem far too idealistic to be working with the police." Genevieve impishly smiled. "How do you reconcile their work with your ideals?"
Blair grinned in response. "Well, my mother wasn’t really thrilled about it," he admitted with a smile. "I think you and Naomi, my mom, would get along great. She’s been an activist since before I was born. But Jim…Detective Ellison and Captain Banks are two of the best good guys. Sure, there are some rotten apples within the department. You’ll find those in any society. But the vast majority of the Cascade PD are men and women genuinely trying to help people. They’re not on some power trip. Naomi realized that after she met them and got to know them." He looked at Genevieve. "So would you."
Genevieve shrugged then smiled.
"You know Feliz Lemec is going to be there tomorrow," Blair pointed out. When Genevieve nodded again, he continued. "That man represents everything you hate. How can you….you…"
"Smile and make pleasantries with each other?" Genevieve finished.
"Exactly." Blair nodded.
"The day will come when Lemec’s government will fall," Genevieve predicted. "In the meantime, I must be free to travel and speak out."
"Why does he tolerate you?" Blair asked. "He knows how you despise him."
Genevieve briefly smiled. "He has no choice. He needs American trade agreements. He doesn’t want to be portrayed as the murderous dictator he really is." Her voice cracked with bitterness. "Eliminating me would make his life easier in the short run but would complicate it in the long run."
Blair studied her for several seconds. "You’re not holding something back, are you? That man who died…Detective Ellison thinks he knew you."
"Many people think they know me, Blair." Genevieve shook her head. "Someone who believes as I do shakes my hand and…they ‘know’ me." She saw the silent question in Blair’s eyes. "I did not know him." When Blair slowly nodded, she nudged his shoulder. "I thought we were going sailing around the bay."
"Yeah." Blair happily nodded. "And we’ve got a great day for it, too." As they walked away, he reached for his cell phone. "Um…I promised Detective Ellison, I’d let him know where we were going."
Genevieve’s dark eyes flashed in momentary anger, then she shrugged. "It’s an acceptable compromise," she grudgingly acknowledged. "But I still don’t like it."
Blair hesitated then dialed Jim’s number. "I promised."~~~~~ ACT III ~~~~~"Okay, Sandburg, just watch yourself out there. Any trouble and you call 911 and me, got it?" Jim smiled as his partner’s quick assurances. "Hey, Chief…I know you’re kinda in a rough spot, okay? I appreciate what you’re doing. Just be careful." He parked on the street in front of the St. Germaine Cultural Attaché’s building. "Yeah, I’ll be careful, too."
Closing the cell phone, Jim got out of the truck and walked towards the guards. Flashing his badge, he requested an audience with President Lemec.
Minutes later, he was ushered into Lemec’s office. The President of St. Germaine was well dressed and sitting behind an impressive desk. A young dark-skinned man stood to Lemec’s back and left. He and Jim eyed each other, each recognizing a potential threat in the other.
"Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, Mr. President." Jim turned his attention to the seated man.
"I’m sure you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t important, Detective Ellison." Lemec didn’t offer him a seat. "How may I assist you? I’m afraid I have little time. We are in preparation for the conference."
"It’s about this, sir." Jim showed him a photograph of the lapel pin. "It was found next to the body of a man who was murdered yesterday. I understand these are given only to a select few."
Lemec leaned forward to look at the photograph then leaned back in the leather-upholstered chair. "That’s true," he admitted. "Unfortunately, there’s a black market for such items. And, every now and them, one gets lost or stolen. Without seeing the pin itself, I can’t tell if it’s genuine or a fake." He shrugged. "Are you certain it’s authentic?"
"As far as we can tell." Jim glanced at the man behind Lemec, spotting the pin on his lapel.
Lemec shrugged again. "They’re very easy to copy. And I can assure you, none of my people would be involved in murder." He studied Jim for a moment. "You are with Major Crimes. I’m surprised you would be involved in a simple murder investigation."
"I wasn’t aware it’s a simple murder investigation," Jim replied as he replaced the photograph in his pocket. "The murdered man was from St. Germaine. I assure you we’ll do everything possible to apprehend his killer, sir."
"I’m sure you will, Detective." Lemec nodded. "If there’s nothing else…"
"Thank you for your cooperation, sir." Jim nodded at Lemec then glanced at the man behind him before leaving.
After the door closed behind Jim, Lemec slowly turned in his chair to stare at Christophe. "Time is running out."
Christophe scowled at the closed door. "How did the detective know Tusseau was from St. Germaine? Do you think he was identified?"
Lemec looked at the closed door as well. "The good detective was guessing. If he knew Tusseau’s identity, he would have made more specific inquiries." He turned back to Christophe. "As to the package, Tusseau must have given it to someone else before you got to him."
"He would have told me," Christophe firmly replied.
Lemec sighed. "Benet probably already has it."
"If so, why would she be so casually strolling around the city?" Christophe asked. "Knowing we could take it from her at any time."
"To create an illusion." Lemec half-smiled. "Both Benet and I know how to create illusions." He looked at the younger man. "Search her room again."
"And if it’s not there?" Christophe asked as he started towards the door.
"Hope that it is," Lemec calmly replied. "Hope very hard."
On the street, Jim slowly walked towards his truck then stopped. Sniffing the air, he slowly walked across the street towards a 4×4 parked down the street. Approaching from the passenger side, he saw the door was unlocked.
Wrenching the door open, he slid into the front seat and grabbed the driver’s right arm. "You’re under arrest, Gustavo." He quickly handcuffed Gustavo’s right wrist to the steering wheel.
"And this is how you greet an old friend?" Gustavo complained.
"I think we have different definitions of that word," Jim grunted as he began patting Gustavo down for weapons.
"I could be halfway around the world by now," Gustavo pointed out. "Instead I come to talk to you." He sighed when Jim ignored him. "At least, grant me the courtesy of listening to me."
"You can explain at Headquarters," Jim replied. "I’ve got two dead Federal officers and some guy named Caldy who’s just dying to get his hands on you."
"Caldy was not there!" Gustavo snapped. "And I didn’t kill anyone." He rolled his eyes. "For God’s sake, Ellison, do you really think I would murder two men in cold blood? I need your help to save my life."
Jim eyed the older man. "You’ve got ten minutes." He decided. "And only because you came to my home. ‘Course I would have given you fifteen minutes if you’d actually knocked on the door."
"How did you know?" Gustavo asked in surprise.
"The gloves in your pocket are lined with alpaca," Jim pointed out. "It gives off an unusual scent. I smelled in the stairway where I live."
Gustavo frowned then looked at his handcuffed wrist. "It will be a little difficult to drive like this."
"You’ll manage," Jim grunted. "Drive to my home." He smirked. "You know where it is."
"Your city is very beautiful." Genevieve admired. The unexpected warm sunlight was making the excursion around the bay very enjoyable. Around them, children from an elementary school on a field trip were excitedly chattering about being out of classes for the morning.
"Yeah, it is," Blair admitted. "Sometimes you just have to see it through the eyes of a tourist."
"And I thank you for allowing me to play tourist for a few hours." Genevieve patted his arm. "It’s not something I get a chance to do very often."
Blair impulsively leaned over and kissed her lips.
Genevieve returned the kiss for a brief second, then pulled away. "I’m sorry, Blair. I can’t do this." She saw the pain of rejection in Blair’s eyes. "It has nothing to do with you. I cannot permit myself to become involved with anyone."
"It’s okay," Blair quickly assured her as he moved back. "No problem."
Genevieve shook her head. "I don’t think you do understand, Blair." She sighed and looked at the Cascade skyline. "What I do, I must do alone. How can I ask someone to share the risks…even for a short time?"
"Even if someone believed as you believe and is willing?" Blair stared at the deck beneath his feet.
Genevieve gently squeezed his arm. "Would you permit someone to take those risks? If you were me?"
Blair slowly raised his eyes and stared at the woman next to him. "That’s a lonely way to live."
"Yes," Genevieve quietly admitted, releasing his arm. "But it’s a choice I made long ago. Perhaps one day it will be different."
*But you don’t believe that, do you?* Blair took a deep breath. "Maybe some day a lot of things will be different." He looked at the approaching shoreline. "We’ll be docking soon. I guess I need to get you back to your hotel to prepare for this evening."
Genevieve nudged his shoulder. "I must thank your Captain Banks." When Blair looked at her in surprise, she smiled. "If he had not sent an escort to the airport, I would not have met such a wonderful tour guide…and friend."
Gustavo happily sighed as he finished his ham and cheese sandwich. "Muchas gracias. You make a good sandwich, my friend." He eyed the half-empty coffee mug. "The coffee, however…I will send you some good Columbian beans."
"So Caldy promised to drop all charges if you’d set up Janover for him?" Jim mused. "How do you know Janover?"
"He used to buy weapons from my brother," Gustavo explained. "With Hector in jail, it was easy to convince him I’d taken over the business."
"What went wrong at the buy?" Jim asked.
"Caldy is an idiot," Gustavo grunted. "I told him Janover was paranoid bastard. Caldy was supposed to have his people far away with some sort of James Bond listening devices. Instead, he put two men in a car in a deserted warehouse just across the river from where we met." He muttered in Spanish under his breath, then looked at Jim. "Even *I* could see them sitting there."
"So Janover eliminated them," Jim sighed. He carefully thought then leaned forward. "What do you want, Gustavo?"
"My only way out is if Janover is arrested," Gustavo admitted. "But I can’t do this alone."
"You skipped out on me once before," Jim pointed out.
"That was out of survival, my friend." Gustavo smiled. "This time, in order to survive, I must stay with you."
"And the other missile?" Jim asked.
"In a safe place." Gustavo shrugged. "My…how do you say?…bargaining chip?"
Jim suspiciously eyed the older man, then grabbed his cell phone when it rang. "Ellison."
"Someone just broke into Benet’s hotel room." Simon’s voice snapped across the open line. "A maid spotted him as he was coming out. They think they got the building sealed before he got away. Where’s Benet?"
"With Sandburg. On an excursion around the bay." Jim checked his watch as he walked towards the door for his jacket. "They should be on their way back to the hotel by now." He glanced at Gustavo who was listening with interest. "I’m on my way." He disconnected the call and reached for his cuffs. "Come here, Gustavo."
"We are leaving?" Gustavo asked as he approached.
"I am. You’re not." Jim quickly cuffed Gustavo, forcing the man to hug the wooden support next to the kitchen island. "We’ll continue this when I get back."
"Amigo, I’m hurt by your suspicion." Gustavo frowned. "Is this truly necessary?"
Jim stared at Gustavo then nodded. "Oh, yes. It’s very necessary." He turned to leave. "Mi casa es su casa."
"Gracias, amigo," Gustavo sighed. "Gracias."
Jim eyed the security personnel moving throughout the hotel lobby and bar. *Benet’s gonna have a hemorrhage over this one.* He saw Simon directing traffic by the main elevators. "Anything, sir?"
"No sign yet," Simon admitted. "We’re doing a search floor-by-floor."
Jim stabbed the elevator button. "I’ll start at the roof and work my way down."
Simon nodded. "Rafe! Brown! You’re with Ellison!" He saw the scowl on Jim’s face. "No arguments, Jim."
"Very good, sir," Jim sighed. He entered the elevator with the two other detectives from Major Crimes. He saw Blair and Benet entering the hotel lobby, Benet angrily arguing with a uniformed officer. "I’ll let you explain to her."
Simon muttered under his breath when he spotted Benet.
Henri managed to keep from chuckling until the elevator door closed. "That’s cold, baby. Real cold."
As they approached the door leading to the roof, Jim slowed down. He extended his hearing and heard the rapid thumping of a panicked heartbeat on the roof. He reached for his gun, motioning for the others to do so.
Rafe frowned but obeyed. He glanced at Henri who curiously shrugged.
Jim eased the door open, only to close it as a bullet ricocheted off the metal dormer above the door.
Henri reached for his radio. "Shots fired on the roof. Probable suspect cornered."
"On three," Jim muttered. He held up three fingers, then lowered one. A second later, he lowered the second one. Another second and he kicked the door open.
Jim tucked himself into a forward roll, feeling a bullet pass over him.
Behind him, both Henri and Rafe quickly fired, allowing Jim to reach cover behind a huge air-conditioning unit.
Jim quickly fired, allowing Henri to run towards a similar unit on the other side of the roof.
Rafe fired from the doorway, then allowed it to swing shut.
Jim spotted Christophe running towards the edge of the roof. "Halt! Cascade PD! There’s nowhere to run!"
Christophe slowly turned. He saw all three officers aiming their guns at him. He slowly dropped the gun.
Rafe quickly ducked through the half-open door, stepping onto the roof.
Henri and Jim slowly rose from behind their protection.
Christophe smiled then turned and ran towards the edge of the roof.
"*NO!*" Rafe yelled, even as he started running towards Christophe.
Further away, both Jim and Henri began running.
Rafe grabbed at Christophe’s arm as the man jumped.
With a strangled yell, Christophe leapt over the small balustrade and fell towards the street below. Seconds later, they heard screams from the street.
All three detectives looked over the side of the building to see Christophe lying on the pavement below. Jim’s eyesight easily saw the splatters of blood and body parts lying around the body.
"I…I couldn’t get to him." Rafe shook his head in disbelief.
"You tried, man. You tried." Henri patted his partner’s arm.
"He was standing next to Feliz Lemec when I saw them this morning," Jim assured Simon. The two men watched as Christophe’s body was loaded into the coroner’s van. "We should get a quick identification from the Feds."
"Whoever he is, he decided he’d rather do a swan dive than be arrested." Simon shook his head. "I don’t like the sound of that, Jim." He looked across the lobby where Henri was quietly talking with his partner, then to where Genevieve Benet impatiently waited with Blair. "I’m going to get Rafe’s statement, then send him home. See if you can diffuse that situation." He jerked his head in Benet’s direction and walked away.
"By the way, sir, I left someone at the loft I think you’ll be interested in speaking with," Jim replied. The two officers exchanged a quick look, then Simon nodded.
As Jim approached his partner and Benet, he saw Blair worriedly looking at Rafe and Henri.
"Is Rafe okay? Henri?" Blair asked when he approached.
"Yeah, Rafe’s just shook. He grabbed at the guy just before he went over the side," Jim explained. He looked at Benet. "Dr. Benet, your room was specifically targeted. Please consider changing to another hotel."
"No." Genevieve shook her head. "I understand your position, Detective Ellison. I truly do." She glanced at Blair. "You and Captain Banks have a most determined and persuasive advocate."
Blair squirmed when Jim shot him a questioning look.
"But I must prepare for this evening," Genevieve continued. "I cannot afford any further distractions."
"Then I must insist on a guard at your door, Dr. Benet," Jim firmly proposed.
Genevieve hesitated then slowly nodded. "Very well. As long as access to me is not denied."
Blair followed as the details of Benet’s security were hashed out. He suddenly had a greater understanding and appreciation for professional negotiators.
Upstairs, they found two uniformed guards at Benet’s door. Jim raised a hand to forestall her protests. "As soon as possible, they’ll be replaced by non-uniformed officers," he promised.
Genevieve sighed, then nodded.
Inside the room, another uniformed officer watched as a maid worked to replace the sheets on the bed.
"We’ll need a list of anything missing." Jim frowned.
"There is nothing to miss." Genevieve shook her head. "If the man who broke in took a piece of clothing or a cheap piece of jewelry, he would be welcome to it. Everything of value to me is here." She tapped her left temple.
"Are you the maid who spotted the intruder?" Jim asked. "Mrs.?"
The elderly woman looked at them and nodded. She left the bedroom to join them in the sitting room. "Clarice Barton. Yes, sir. Dr. Benet had requested a change of bedding after 3pm. I saw a man leaving her room. He looked startled to see me and raised his hand to strike me. That’s when I screamed. Fortunately, another guest heard my scream and came to help me. That’s when the man ran away."
Jim looked at the uniform officer.
"A Mr. Reginald Delbarton in 302," the officer answered. He was leaving his room for a meeting at the Wilkerson Towers when he heard Mrs. Barton scream."
Jim glanced at Genevieve. "A change of bedding in the middle of the day?"
"I usually take a brief nap after lunch." Genevieve wearily shrugged. "One of my few personal vices is fresh bedding. I have difficulty sleeping in a bed without clean, fresh sheets."
Jim ignored the amused look his partner sent in his direction. *I’m not that bad, Sandburg.* He turned to the officer. "We’ll take over now."
The young officer nodded and left, gently closing the door behind him.
The maid returned to the bedroom to finish her work.
"If you don’t mind…" Genevieve indicated the closed door. "I really would like to rest, and I must prepare for this evening."
"I’m sorry. I didn’t know you rested in the early afternoon," Blair apologized.
"Don’t be sorry." Genevieve sadly smiled. "If you hadn’t been such a good tour guide, I would have been here when that man broke in."
Jim curtly nodded as he started towards the door. "You might keep that in mind, Dr. Benet."~~~~~ ACT IV ~~~~~"Well, we have an identification on one of our dead bodies." Simon placed a folder on Jim’s desk.
Jim quickly grabbed the folder before Blair could get it. Flipping it open, he quickly scanned the documents. "Jean Christophe. Street hustler and dope dealer. Lemec recruited him when he was about sixteen."
"You think he killed our John Doe?" Simon asked.
"He was wearing one of Lemec’s lapel pins," Jim pointed out. "That means he’s very loyal. I think he could be."
"Most likely was," Blair spoke up. "From what Genevieve says, those close to Lemec double as his personal hit squad."
Simon frowned. "Let’s assume you’re right. He kills someone who’s trying to warn Benet. Then he goes to Benet’s room…for what? Benet or something else?"
Jim shrugged. "Either way, he took a seven-story swan dive rather than be questioned."
Simon glanced at Blair. "I think it’s time to bring Benet in. She’s in too much danger to be giving any speeches."
"She won’t do it." Blair shook his head. "She’s committed to giving that speech, and she’s not going to back off." He half-smiled. "And if you use force to prevent her from speaking, I can guarantee you won’t like the next speech she gives."
"Well, we can’t protect her unless she asks for it," Simon admitted. "Try again, Sandburg. Try very, very hard."
Blair shrugged. "Okay. I’m going home to change for this evening, then I’ll head to Genevieve’s room. I’ll be with her for the rest of the evening."
Jim nodded, silently waiting until Blair left. Then he glanced at Simon. "Did you pick up my guest?"
Simon nodded. "You didn’t tell Sandburg?"
Jim shook his head. "He’s got enough to deal with." He closed the file on his desk. "Pissed off Fed at two o’clock."
Simon turned to see Caldy rapidly walking towards him. "Where’s Alcante?" he demanded.
"In our lockup," Simon pleasantly answered.
"Give me the papers to sign, and I’ll take him off your hands," Caldy ordered.
"Not so fast, Agent Caldy." Simon shook his head. "Alcante’s made us an offer, and we’re going to consider it."
"Alcante belongs to me!" Caldy shouted. "He’s going to pay…"
"He belongs to both of us." Simon interrupted before Jim exploded. "Now we can fight about it, or we can work it out. Your choice."
Caldy looked from Simon to Jim then back to Simon. "What’s his proposal?" he suspiciously asked.
"Your room is prepared," Clarice Barton quietly spoke.
"Thank you." Genevieve turned away from the window. Glancing at the closed door, she moved closer to the elderly woman. "No one would recognize you as a homeless woman."
Clarice inclined her head. "I wasn’t a great actress, but I was a good actress." She reached into her cleaning cart and handed a crumpled 9" x 12" envelope.
"I’m sorry about Henri," Genevieve whispered.
Clarice looked away. "My grandson died for this information. Make sure it counts."
"I will, Clarice," Genevieve promised. She started towards the bedroom, then stopped when Clarice spoke.
"Those pictures," Clarice quietly spoke. "They include pictures of your father." She pushed her cart towards the door. "Take care, Genevieve. Remember, your life is not your own."
"This is just another one of his scams!" Caldy shouted. "Why the hell would Janover agree to another meet? He’d suspect a trap."
"I’m desperate to leave the country and need money fast," Gustavo smoothly answered. "He’ll believe it."
"And he’ll help because he’s such a humanitarian," Caldy scoffed.
*Gustavo’s right. The man’s an idiot.* Jim refrained from looking at Simon.
"He’ll help because I have something he wants, remember? The other missile," Gustavo pointed out.
"I’ve got a better idea," Caldy snapped. "You give me the missile’s location and maybe…just maybe you won’t rot in prison for the rest of your life."
"We do this my way or you never see the missile again," Gustavo gently argued.
"The hell with this," Caldy snarled, reaching for his handcuffs.
"Back off, Caldy!" Simon angrily ordered. "What the hell’s the matter with you? Do you want Janover or not?"
"When did this weasel become your pet project?" Caldy demanded. "If this goes wrong, I’ll see all of you in prison! You understand, Banks? All of you!"
Gustavo calmly stroked his moustache. "Shall we begin?"
Genevieve wiped the tears from her eyes at the sound of someone knocking on her door.
"Genevieve, it’s Blair."
Taking deep breaths, Genevieve walked to the door and opened it. She politely nodded at the young plain-clothes officer standing by her door. "Hello, Blair." She motioned for him to enter.
Blair saw her reddened eyes and quickly walked into the room. He quickly looked around as she closed the door. "What’s the matter? Did something happen?"
Genevieve shook her head. "Allergies. I’m sorry, Blair, but I need to work on my speech. I wasn’t expecting you so soon. Perhaps we could meet downstairs."
"Actually, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about," Blair admitted. "The man who broke into your room was identified as one of President Lemec’s personal hit men." He shook his head. "I have no right to ask you, but please don’t go to the ceremony tonight."
"I won’t be bullied by threats." Genevieve shook her head. "I will not submit to them. Especially tonight. It’s too important."
"What is wrong with you?" Blair agitatedly demanded. "These aren’t just threats anymore. Do you realize that two people are dead, and we don’t even know who one of them is?
"His name was Henri Tusseau. He was only twenty-six years old." Genevieve wearily sat in one of the overstuffed chairs.
"You knew?" Blair dejectedly asked. "All the time? Why did you lie?"
Genevieve seemed to find resolve inside herself. "Because I had no choice. As I was recently reminded, my life is not my own. Therefore, my choices are not always my own to make."
"If you hadn’t lied, maybe we could’ve…" Blair haltingly began.
"This is the side of political activism that isn’t so pretty," Genevieve admitted. "You could have done nothing. Would you have arrested President Lemec? Your State Department would never have allowed it. You have no proof he’s violated any of your laws."
"We still could have done something!" Blair angrily replied.
Genevieve shook her head. "You and your friends could have done nothing. But by remaining silent, I am able to do something about him now." She reached for the envelope on the writing desk next to her. "This will be part of my speech." She handed the envelope to Blair.
The young man silently looked through the pictures and hand-written sheets of paper. "My God," he murmured. "Names. Dates. Photos." He looked at Genevieve in shock. "Where’d you get this?"
"The refugees have an underground railway for atrocity reports," Genevieve admitted. "But we’ve never had evidence like this before. Henri was a courier, bringing the information to me. The conference is a perfect opportunity to expose Lemec."
"That’s why your speech is so important to you." Blair nodded.
"The media will all be there to observe the opening of the conference with the lighting of the torch," Genevieve pointed out. "I will produce this information in the glare of public spotlight. When it’s made public, your country will withdraw its trade agreements. St. Germaine’s economy will collapse, bringing down Lemec’s regime."
"If he doesn’t get you first," Blair grimly argued. "This is what he’s been after all along."
Genevieve shrugged. "By showing you this, I’m risking everything, Blair. If you go to the police, they’ll try their best to stop me and perhaps succeed. If they do, then all the sacrifices…all the deaths will have been in vain." She stared at him. "I must do this, Blair. For the memory of everyone in those pictures. For the sake of those who aren’t yet in those pictures."
Silently, Blair nodded. "But you’ve got to let me stay with you. You need somebody who knows what’s really going on."
Genevieve silently nodded. "I must get dressed." She rose, then stopped to squeeze Blair’s shoulder. "Thank you, Blair."
The young man silently nodded. As the door to the bedroom closed, he began putting the papers and photos back in the envelope. He was surprised to see a small silver locket in the bottom of the envelope. Shaking it out, he opened the locket. Staring up at him was a man he recognized from one of the photos…standing with his arm around a younger Genevieve.
Jim gave the empty warehouse one more glance. "Here’s the drill, Gustavo. When Janover shows up, you stay away from him. You let *him* approach the missile, and we’ll take it from there."
Gustavo nodded. He touched Jim’s arm before he moved away. "Thank you, Ellison."
"Don’t thank me until this is over," Jim grunted. He followed the others to take cover.
Ten minutes later, Janover slowly walked into the warehouse, gun in his right hand. "Alcante?" he called.
"Over here," Gustavo called. He warily watched the mercenary appear, careful to keep to the front of the 4×4. "The missile’s in the back."
Janover cautiously lowered the back door of the 4×4 and examined the missile. "A beautiful piece of work," he admitted.
"Only the best." Gustavo proudly nodded.
"Drop the gun, Janover!" Caldy demanded.
"You can look but don’t touch!" Jim shouted. "Gun on the ground! Now!"
Surrounded by both Federal and Cascade PD officers, Janover quickly obeyed.
Caldy quickly handcuffed the mercenary who was scowling at Gustavo.
"Looks like you land on your feet again, Gustavo," Jim commented, slowly holstering his gun.
Gustavo shrugged. "It’s a talent," he modestly admitted.
"I want a deal!" Janover shouted.
"For what?" Caldy demanded.
"For what I was hired to do with that missile," Janover offered. "But you don’t have much time to agree."
Caldy hesitated. "Spill it, and we’ll decide what it’s worth."
Janover shook his head. "All I’ll tell without a deal is it involves the conference."
"You were going to use that missile against the conference?" Jim angrily grabbed the mercenary by his lapels and shoved him against the side of Gustavo’s 4×4.
"Ellison! Take your hands off my prisoner!" Caldy shouted.
Gustavo calmly crossed his arms across his chest and waited.
"Who?" Jim growled as he stared into Janover’s eyes.
The mercenary fearfully glanced at Caldy.
"I’m the one you need to fear," Jim snarled.
"If I were you, Janover, I would tell everything I know," Gustavo suggested.
"Shut up, Alcante!" Caldy ordered. "Ellison! Release my prisoner! *NOW!*"
Janover took a deep breath. "I was supposed to use it when they lit the torch. It’s a heat seeking missile so I couldn’t possibly miss. Lemec ordered it."
"Well, there’s no danger of that now." Caldy pulled Janover away from Jim.
"El Presidente doesn’t seem the sort of man who doesn’t have…what do you call it?…a backup plan?" Gustavo mused.
Jim stared at Gustavo. "No, he doesn’t." He watched as the Federal agents escorted Janover out of the building. "You know, by all rights I should arrest you."
"True." Gustavo nodded in agreement.
"I’ve got something more important to do." Jim tossed Gustavo the keys to the 4×4. "I want you to meet me at Headquarters. But be careful. The roads can be tricky. You don’t want to get lost."
"Heaven forbid." Gustavo nodded. "Thank you, amigo. Vaya con Dios."
Jim curtly nodded and turned away. He shouted for the Cascade officers to follow him and reached for his cell phone. By the time he’d reached his truck, he had Simon on the phone. "Simon, we’ve got a problem at the conference."
True to her word, Genevieve insisted Blair accompany her to the dais. A half-dozen uniformed officers surrounded them as they made their way through the crowd. Blair flinched at the flash of cameras as reporters tried to edge closer. Genevieve calmly ignored the flashes as well as the shouted questions from nearby reporters.
Suddenly, Feliz Lemec and his entourage joined them. "Dr. Benet, I’m sorry we haven’t had a chance to speak sooner. I’d hoped to catch you at your hotel."
"Must be your timing," Genevieve coolly replied.
Lemec eyed Blair curiously, then looked back at Genevieve. "Perhaps later tonight, we can sit down and arrive at a position that would be to our mutual benefit."
Blair was aware of the nearby reporters recording the conversation.
Genevieve, also aware of what Lemec was trying to do, smiled. "Why wait, Mr. President? Join me now on the dais and show the world your commitment to human rights."
Lemec pleasantly smiled but shook his head. "This is your time, Dr. Benet. Your moment." He bowed, then allowed his entourage to lead him away.
"That was weird," Blair muttered as they edged towards the dais. "He did all that for a sound bite?"
"You’d be surprised what a politician will do for a sound bite," Genevieve chuckled. "But I admit, that *was* unusual." She paused at the side of the dais and gathered her thoughts.
Blair looked out at the crowd, feeling the energy that surrounded them. *This is what Naomi felt…what she tried to explain to me. The idea of working to change the world for the better.* He glanced at Benet and half-smiled. *Did she give this sort of protest up for my sake or because she couldn’t make the sort of compromises that Genevieve’s had to make?*
At the edge of the crowd, Lemec turned to the Cultural Attaché. "Benet has been allotted five minutes to speak. Your man knows to wait until she’s about halfway through her speech?"
The attaché respectfully nodded. "He knows, sir. He is loyal to you and will not fail."
"He’d better not," Lemec grunted.
The Mayor of Cascade bowed to the applause as he took his place at the microphone. He even cheerfully acknowledged the few catcalls scattered among the crowd. "Honored guests. Some of you have come a great distance, all to bring attention to Amnesty International. But none of you have worked so hard and risked so much as the honored speaker this evening. She honors us tonight by lighting the torch that symbolizes our commitment to human rights and the dignity of all people. Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Genevieve Benet."
Genevieve glanced at Blair then climbed the three steps to the dais and shook the Mayor’s hand. Then she bowed to the applauding crowd.
"Thank you," she began. "It’s a privilege to stand here for Amnesty International, to speak out for those who have no voice. Their future rests in what we choose to do. We can continue to allow the darkness of cruelty and indifference or we can reach out and light the world."
Carefully pushing the button on the podium, Genevieve glanced to her left to see the torch burst into light.
As the crowd applauded, Lemec grunted. *The Americans are right. If you want something done, do it yourself. Janover is a dead man.*
Jim angrily flung his cell phone onto the seat next to him. "Damn it, Sandburg, I said stay in touch! Why the hell’d you turn your cell phone off?" In the distance, he saw the Amnesty International torch being illuminated.
Minutes later, he’d hastily parked his truck and flashed his identification to the security personnel. They were alerted to a possible attack of some sort and spread out through the crowd at Jim’s direction.
Jim saw Benet at the microphone and spotted Blair near to her. He carefully looked through the crowd and saw Lemec at the far edge. He was surprised to see Lemec not looking at Benet. He turned to follow Lemec’s line of sight and realized the man was staring at the illuminated torch…and at the man standing nervously close to it. The man had a press pass around his neck and camera in his hand.
"All units. Converge at the torch," Jim quietly spoke into his radio. "Suspect is about six feet in height. Dark hair. Dark eyes. African-American. Wearing a blue shirt, tan pants, and light brown jacket. He has a press pass and camera. Possibly armed. Be aware he could activate a bomb."
"When people are dragged away in the night, when they are tortured and never seen again, then the country in which they live is indeed a living hell. Such a country is St. Germaine," Genevieve continued. "Many in my homeland have suffered and died to bring the evidence I share with you today."
Genevieve triumphantly held her envelope aloft allowing the press to take pictures of it.
Blair looked into the crowd and found Lemec standing at the edge, near the broad driveway. *Okay, the man has a right to look nervous, but…*
"With this evidence I will prove the blood of St. Germaine is on the hands of Feliz Lemec." Genevieve opened the envelope enough to expose several photographs. "And I have pictures of your hands, Mr. Lemec."
Several photographers and broadcasters, aware of Lemec’s presence at the edge of the crowd, turned to catch his response.
Jim quietly approached the man close to the torch. He’d closed his eyes and seemed to be murmuring to himself. Jim quickly grabbed the man’s moving left arm and cuffed it. A uniformed officer grabbed the man’s right arm. Before he could say a word, they’d dragged him away.
Jim pulled the man’s jacket open to reveal several sticks of dynamite securely wrapped around the man’s chest. Underneath one explosive was a detonator. Jim quickly removed it then nodded towards a nearby police van. "Get him into that van and call the bomb squad. Ask for Captain Joel Taggart." He turned back towards the dais.
Lemec saw his man being taken away. With a muttered curse, he turned towards his limousine.
"Mr. President, do you have any response to Dr. Benet’s charges?" Don Haas shouted.
"Anyone can doctor photographs!" Lemec growled. "So-called evidence can be falsified." He was surprised to hear his voice over the PA system and threw the reporter a vicious glare. "My government is dedicated to the stabilization of our part of the world. We will not allow rabble-rousers to destroy our way of life! A way of life, I remind you, that stands firmly against terrorists…including domestic."
"It’s more than pictures," Genevieve replied. "People will now come forward, Mr. Lemec. They will now speak."
Lemec angrily waived a hand in silent dismissal. Followed by the cultural attaché, he entered the limousine and was driven away.
Jim shook his head then looked surprised to see a familiar figure next to the area where people could sign Amnesty International petitions. Surprised, he watched as the man signed several petitions, then turned to leave.
Jim intercepted the man before he’d gotten more than ten feet away. "What are you doing here?"
Gustavo Alcante smiled. "Señor Ellison, sometimes we do things for the good of our soul, eh?" He shrugged. "They may not be smart, but they are necessary."
Jim scowled at the older man, aware of the approaching officers. "This isn’t like you."
Gustavo shrugged again. "As I said, some things are good for the soul." He smiled. "You will learn as you get older, my friend." He eyed the surrounding officers. "Will you do the honors?"
Jim sighed and motioned for one of the officers to handcuff Gustavo. "Gustavo Alcante, you’re under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say can and may be held against you in a court of law." He nodded at the officers. "Take him to Headquarters. And, guys…he gets respect. Understand?"
He saw men in FBI windbreakers intercept the Cascade PD officers. After a few moments of discussion, they led Gustavo away. Sighing, Jim reached for his cell phone. "Simon? All under control. I’m going to stay with Blair and Benet until this thing’s over tonight. Yeah, I’ll get you a report as soon as possible."
Blair’s eyes widened in surprise when Jim joined them. "I missed something, didn’t I?" he muttered.
Jim gently squeezed his partner’s arm. "I’ll tell you later," he promised.
Genevieve looked at the conference organizers. "I apologize, gentlemen. I believe I will be using more than my allotted five minutes." She took one photograph and raised it high for the crowd to see. "This is Margarita Bresuer. She was seventeen when she disappeared on her way to school. Her crime was to sign a petition demanding free elections." After a few moments, she raised a second photograph. "This is Jean Baptiste Croix. He was sixty-one when he disappeared. His crime was trying to find out what happened to his granddaughter, Margarita Breseur." After a few moments, she raised a third photograph…..
Jim stared at Genevieve and sighed. *Yeah, Gustavo, I understand. Some things you do for the good of your soul.*~~~~~ Epilogue ~~~~~Genevieve shook hands with Simon. "I apologize again for any problems I may have caused, Captain. I appreciate your concern and your forbearance."
"Next time, Dr. Benet, we’d appreciate your confidence," Simon gently reproved.
Genevieve impishly smiled. "I will, Captain. Blair has reminded me not to paint everyone with the same brush."
Simon glanced to where Blair was leaning over Jim’s desk talking with the detective. He absently frowned, seeing the conversation wasn’t pleasant.
"Did Gustavo say anything about Maya?" Blair asked.
"Actually, he didn’t mention her at all," Jim admitted. He glanced up in time to see the hurt expression in Blair’s eyes. "Sorry, Chief. I never thought to ask."
Blair shrugged. "It’s okay. She knows where I am."
*Yeah, she does. But she doesn’t give a damn.* Jim managed to keep his expression neutral. "I think Dr. Benet’s ready to leave."
"Yeah, I promised to take her to the airport." Blair straightened. "There but for the grace of me goes Naomi."
Jim frowned. "You want to run that one past me again, Chief?"
"Later," Blair promised with a laugh. "Maybe over a couple of beers tonight, okay?"
"You got it, partner," Jim agreed. He watched as Blair took Genevieve’s arm and led her towards the elevator. With a sigh, he followed Simon into his office.
"Coffee, Jim?" Simon offered as he turned on the small television. "I understand there’s something about Lemec on the tube."
"Sure, Simon." Jim sat on the couch and watched as Don Haas appeared. "What’s he doing on this channel? I thought he was with Channel 17."
"Who knows? I think he’s actually twins or triplets or something," Simon grunted. "He’s everywhere." He handed Jim a steaming cup of coffee and sat on the couch next to him. "How’s the kid doing?"
"He’ll be okay." Jim slowly nodded as he sipped the hot liquid.
"In the wake of the bloodless coup that swept him from power this week, Feliz Lemec was stripped of diplomatic immunity and will be extradited to St. Germaine for trial," Don Haas earnestly reported. "A Federal judge rejected Lemec’s request to face charges in the United States first and ordered an immediate extradition."
"I guess he likes our jails better," Jim grunted.
Simon grunted as he sipped the coffee. "Speaking of jails, I thought you said the FBI took Gustavo into custody."
Eyes on the television screen, Jim nodded. "Right after we apprehended that suicide bomber of Lemec’s." He took another sip of coffee.
Simon slowly nodded. "I checked. Nobody called the FBI."
Jim took another sip of coffee. "Is that a fact? Not even Caldy?"
"Yep," Simon answered. "That’s how he got away from us the last time."
"That’s true, sir," Jim agreed. He rose to his feet and set his coffee cup on Simon’s desk. "Thanks for the coffee."
Simon silently lifted his cup in response. As Jim closed the door behind him, Simon softly chuckled.~~~~~ The End ~~~~~Please remember to send feedback to our authors. Feedback can be sent to: [email protected]Next week’s episode: Storm Warning by JET